Archive for February, 2009

WHAS 11: Metro Parks Spent $600k Last Year on New Mowers

Posted in Development, Economics, Environment, Kentucky News, Louisville News, Media, Metro Parks, Otter Creek Park, Politics on February 25, 2009 by stateofthecommonwealth

WHAS 11 aired a whopper of a story last night, that Louisville Metro Parks spent over $600,000 on new mowers last year, just before spending cuts were announced by Mayor Abramson in December. Here’s the full story (you can watch video of the story by following the link above to WHAS 11):

Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) – WHAS11 News has learned that as Louisville Mayor Abramson was closing Otter Creek Park to save a half million dollars, the Metro Parks Department was spending more than that on new lawn mowers.

It’s your tax dollars, and critics are saying its misplaced priorities.

But the parks department says the mowers are a great deal for taxpayers for the future.

The parks department says the fancy new lawn mowers are more efficient and were purchased just before the price went way up.

But spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawn mowers in tough budget times has got some folks flabbergasted:

You’ll be seeing these all-in-one Toro lawn mowers on Louisville’s public golf courses this summer. The metro parks department bought eight of these new mowers last fall to replace the old tractor and pull behind blades currently being used.

Those eight faster, easier mowers were purchased last October. The total cost was $507,000. The next month, in November, metro parks purchased nine of these tractor pulled blade mowers which are designed to bushhog and cut high grass. Total cost on those was $96,000. More than $600,000 spent on new mowers just as Mayor Abramson was announcing a huge budget shortfall and millions in spending cuts.

Nowhere in the parks department’s capital budget is there any mention of cash for new mowers. Storch says that’s because the money is coming out of metro government’s depreciation account. Councilman Downard still wonders how the mower purchases will sit with city workers who face four mandatory furlough days without pay.

And yes, it is true, that $600,000 price tag on the new mowers is about $100,000 more than metro government expects to save by closing Otter Creek Park. Downard says that’s one less park to mow with more lawnmowers.

One minor note about this story: Louisville Metro only predicted to save on the order of $180,000 for this fiscal year by closing Otter Creek Park, so the $500,000 figure cited in the story is a bit misleading. Louisville may save $500,000 in the next fiscal year if OCP remains closed, but closing OCP also ended a revenue stream, as well the potential for more. Either way, spending $600,000 during a recession on lawnmowers that, no matter how nice they are, will depreciate is not what we’d call fiscal responsibility.

Advertisements

Old Hickory Destroyed By Fire

Posted in Crime, Drink, Louisville News on February 23, 2009 by stateofthecommonwealth

Just when we’re lamenting the lack of much of anything newsworthy in our lives, lo and behold the bar down the street from our house catches fire. That’s right, around 4:10 PM today, the Old Hickory, a Schnitzelburg institution, was heavily damaged by a fire. Here’s the Courier-Journal‘s story:

Old Hickory Inn, a bar that has been a landmark of the Germantown area for decades, was destroyed by fire this afternoon.

Firefighters received multiple calls about the fire around 4:10 p.m. and found heavy smoke and flames coming from the building at 1038 Lydia St.

The cause of the fire is unclear but it was complicated by a broken gas meter that fed the flames and by alcohol in the bar area.

Sgt. Sal Melendez, spokesman for Louisville Fire & Rescue, said the fire “proved to be very challenging. Alcohol and flames don’t mix.”

It took 40 firefighters about an hour to get the fire under control in the two-story building, which was unoccupied when the blaze started. The second floor of the building was vacant.

No one was injured in the fire, Melendez said.

An older neighbor was evacuated from her home next door as a precaution, but the fire did not spread to the residence.

David Hoffmann, who has run the bar for about 10 ½ years got word of the fire while he was at his home. “I’m destroyed. I don’t have no insurance,” said Hoffmann, who did not own the building.

A neighbor, Dave Sidebottom, 40, said he had lived in the neighborhood his entire life as he took photos of the damaged building. He said he recalled his grandfather going to the bar at the corner of Hickory and Lydia streets.

“It’s always been a tavern, like a landmark. I hate to see it go,” Sidebottom said.

At least eight firefighting trucks were on the scene. Arson investigators were also present, seeking a cause of the fire, which is normal procedure.

But seriously, this is a bummer for the neighborhood, but we’re glad nobody was hurt. We missed the bulk of the action, arriving on the scene after work, sometime around 5:20 – 5: 30 PM. Lots of residents, policemen and firemen milling about, the requisite TV news truck here and there, etc.

See the rest of our photos after the break…

Continue reading

Your 2009 Portsmouth Rock Dispute Update

Posted in Art, Crime, Environment, Kentucky History, Kentucky News, Kentucky Small Towns, Ohio River, Politics on February 4, 2009 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Photo of the Portsmouth Rock from nytimes.com.)

Now it’s gettin’ good. Remember the Portsmouth Rock? And how officials from Ohio and Kentucky have been squabbling over it for the past year? Well, the Associated Press (via the Courier-Journal) is reporting this morning that Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is takin’ it up a notch:

Kentucky’s squabble with an Ohio city over a historic rock that lay for years at the bottom of the Ohio River is rolling into federal court.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has filed a federal civil lawsuit in Ashland, Ky., against the city of Portsmouth, Ohio, and three men over the 8-ton boulder known as Indian Head Rock.

The lawsuit claims a violation of Kentucky law and is seeking, in part, the return of the rock to Kentucky.

The rock bears numerous carvings of initials, names and a crude face and once was an attraction for locals. It had been submerged in the river since about the 1920s until September 2007, when a historian in Ohio led a team to extract it.

The boulder now rests in a city garage in Portsmouth, Ohio, about 110 miles southeast of Cincinnati.

Thank goodness, we were tired of reading nothing but serious news!

McConnell to Obama: Don’t Buy American

Posted in Economics, Elections, Kentucky News, Labor, Media, Politics on February 2, 2009 by stateofthecommonwealth

Since Barack Obama was inaugurated at the end of last month, we Kentuckians have been used to seeing our senior Senator, Mitch McConnell, grab lots of media attention as the Senate Minority Leader. (Nevermind our junior Senator, Jim Bunning, whose actions over the past month seem like what could charitably be described as a “senior moment” — link to today’s Joseph Gerth column in the Courier-Journal.)

Unfortunately for Kentucky, not all of McConnell’s time in the spotlight has been positive. Some of Mitch’s actions and comments in the public eye have been downright tone-deaf to the overall mood of the nation. Case in point, today Mitch is calling for a provision in Obama’s stimulus package that would require government to buy American iron and steel to be stripped (from the Associated Press):

The US Senate should strip a “Buy American” clause from President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, the chamber’s top Republican said Monday amid anger at the restriction from US allies.

“I don’t think we ought to use a measure that is supposed to be timely, temporary, and targeted to set off trade wars when the entire world is experiencing a downturn in the economy,” said Senator Mitch McConnell.

Asked whether he would support trying to strip the measure from what is now roughly an 888-billion-dollar economic stimulus package, the Republican minority leader told reporters: “I think it’s a bad idea to put it in a bill like this, which is supposed to be about jump starting the economy, yes.”

The House of Representatives last week voted to require that public works projects funded by its 819-billion-dollar stimulus bill to use only US iron and steel. The Senate version extends that restriction to all manufactured goods.

McConnell’s comments came as Canada Trade Minister Stockwell Day warned that US protectionism “can only trigger retaliatory action” as he urged Obama to fight the provision.

The Republican leader also urged Obama to lean on his Democratic allies in the US Congress to accept or at least accommodate Republican ideas for how best to pull the US economy out of a paralyzing recession.

“I hope he can get through to them that the way to build this package is, indeed, to do it on a bipartisan basis, which doesn’t mean just talking to us, but including ideas that we think would work,” said McConnell.

That would include plans for government-backed, four percent fixed mortgages to qualified homebuyers, and cutting the bottom two income tax bracket rates from 15 percent to 10 percent and from 10 percent to five percent, he said.

McConnell also denounced the amount of social safety net spending in the stimulus plan and indicated Republicans would like to see fewer zeros on the overall price tag.

“We’ve been throwing figures around like it was paper money,” he said. “We all agree that we need to do something, but I don’t think we should just completely act like the amount is irrelevant.”

While Senate procedures give the minority Republicans powers to slow or stall legislation, McConnell made clear his party’s goal is not to stymie passage of a bill that might revive the US economy.

“Nobody that I know of is trying to keep a package from passing. You know, we’re not trying to prevent a package from passing. We’re trying to reform it — reformulate it — put it in a different place,” he said.

Given how the US steel industry has been decimated over the past twenty years, McConnell’s comments seem downright mean. Though to be fair to Mitch and his fellow Republicans, the only thing that kept the industry alive in the past eight years was the weak dollar. Still, we gotta wonder what Mitch is thinking here. Telling American workers that their own government shouldn’t buy their products isn’t exactly a confidence-boosting measure.